A DIAGNOSIS DIDN’T END THE RUN – Medtronic Global Hero Marathon Weekend




I wish I could get these posts out sooner but I do take very good notes!

The weekend and this report is more than just a race or race report about the Twin Cities Marathon it is about the joining of 25 individuals brought together in the face of some sort of medical condition.  The tagline of the event best describes it “A DIAGNOSIS DIDN’T END THE RUN”.  These individuals share one common trait and that is they have not let their medical condition slow them down.  I always say that although I HATE diabetes I also LOVE diabetes because without it I definitely would not be the same person I am today and I would never have met some of the most amazing individuals I have in my life right now.

In the summer my friend and colleague Adam and fellow T1 Diabetic nominated me to be a Medtronic Global Hero.

What does it mean to be a Medtronic Global Hero?

The global hero program is a cooperative effort between Twin Cities In Motion and Medtronic Philanthropy, the Global Heroes program recognizes runners from around the world who have a medical device to treat conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain and spinal and neurological disorders.

As a global hero I was given an all expenses paid trip for me and Tom and an entry to the Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota.  We arrived in St. Paul Thursday prior to the marathon where we were greeted at the airport with snacks and water then whisked away in a car to the hotel.  From the minute we arrived we were treated like royalty.

That evening we attended a welcome happy  hour where we got to meet the other 24 global heroes.   I won’t be able to give everyone’s stories justice here but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least provide a summary of the 24 because they were such an amazing group of people. So I’d like to introduce to you my 24 global hero brothers and sisters and SOME of their stories (at least the ones I could find).

Molly Dicroce, Arvada, Colorado

Dicroce has a spinal and bone fusion device to treat lumbar degenerative disc disease.


Jason Dunn, Smithville, Missouri

Dunn has a stent to treat coronary artery disease.


Gillian Forsyth, Chicago, Illinois

Forsyth has an insulin pump to manage Type 1 diabetes.


Kent Grelling, Orinda, California

Grelling has an artificial heart valve and a conduit to treat a congenital bicuspid aorta and ascending aortic aneurysm.


Lynn Hall, Lafayette, Colorado

Hall has a neurostimulator to manage pain.


Kristen Hallock-Waters, Tabernacle, New Jersey

Hallock-Waters has a pacemaker to treat heart sinus node dysfunction.


Roberto Itimura, Jundiai, Brazil

Itimura has a stent to treat coronary artery disease.


Dawn Kenwright, Lampeter, United Kingdom

Kenwright has an insulin pump to manage Type 1 diabetes.


Luis Moreira Da Silva, Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Moreira Da Silva has an artificial heart valve to treat ascending aorta aneurism and aortic stenosis on bicuspid valve.


Saci Mowinski, Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada

Mowinski has an insulin pump to manage Type 1 diabetes.


Joshua Simon, Key Biscayne, Florida

Simon has a shunt to treat hydrocephalus.


Amanda Zullo, Saranac Lake, New York

Zullo has an insulin pump to manage Type 1 diabetes.


Ten Mile Participants

Monika Allen, San Diego, California

Allen has a shunt to treat hydrocephalus.


Brad Ashfield, Haddon Township, New Jersey

Ashfield has a lumbar cage to correct a ruptured spinal disc and a stent to treat coronary artery disease.


Rachel Bishop, Holland, Michigan

Bishop has an artificial heart valve to treat a congenital bicuspid aorta and ascending aortic aneurysm.


Gabriel Estrada Mejia, Bogota, Colombia

Estrada Mejia has an insulin pump to manage Type 1 diabetes.


Roger Frisch, Plymouth, Minnesota

Frisch receives deep brain stimulation therapy to help manage symptoms of essential tremor.


George Gilbert, Cuffley, United Kingdom

Gilbert has an artificial heart valve to treat bicuspid aortic valve regurgitation.


Kimi Hall, Southlake, Texas

Hall has a pacemaker to treat arrhythmia caused by heart block.


Geoff Henderson, Binalong, Australia

Henderson has a pacemaker to treat sick sinus syndrome.


Fei Jiao, Sanmenxia City, China

Jiao receives deep brain stimulation therapy to help manage symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.


Carrie Romero, Columbia, Tennessee

Romero has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat cardiomyopathy.


Alana Savage, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Savage has a septal occluder device to treat an atrial septal defect.


Carolin Suhayda, Roma, Italy

Suhayda has a pacemaker to treat sick sinus syndrome.


Guy Yohanan, Givat Ela, Israel

Yohanan receives deep brain stimulation therapy to help manage symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

More info on these amazing people can also be found here: http://www.medtronic.com/globalheroes/our_heroes.html  .

We also had Global Hero Alumni and fellow Canadian Debbie Muir Zelez and Aussie and musician Warren Williams to help us with the lay of the land.  

Friday after an amazing breakfast and presentation we were all given an awesome backpack filled with team swag then we were bused out to the Medtronic headquarters.  Here we were given a fantastic tour and shown some very cool devices that were being developed.  One was a blood dialysis machine which was portable so that people didn’t have to go to a hospital 3 x a week for blood transfusions.  Listening to the employees speak about their projects you couldn’t help but feel the passion and desire in their voices to make medical improvements for people in need.  Listening to and seeing the history behind the company and my insulin pump a few of us were brought to tears of gratitude knowing that our lives had been changed forever by these people and this company. After the tour we were treated to a VIP lunch at the headquarters and were each presented with a beautiful crystal globe engraved with our names.  We were also treated to a musical performance by global hero Roger Frisch a concertmaster for the Minnesota Orchestra and a violinist.

Getting my award!  I was so honored that I missed half the presentation!

Getting my award! I was so honored that I missed half the presentation!


My beautiful crystal award.

My beautiful crystal award.



Musical treat.

Musical treat.


Outside Medtronic Headquarters with the famous logo.

Outside Medtronic Headquarters with the famous logo.



After the lunch we were off to packet pickup and a VIP reception for marathoner organizers and elite athletes.  We were honored at the reception as well.

Saturday we had pictures with the team then time on our own.  I decided to go for a run to shake out the cobwebs.  I felt like had been eating and drinking for the whole time.  As I left the hotel another woman was also leaving the hotel.  We just naturally started to run together.  She was tiny and looked like a good runner.  As we ran together we talked.  As it turns out it she is masters runner Christine Kennedy who will be turning 60 in December.  She is hoping to break the 60+ record and run under 3 hours.  Her marathon PR after 50 was 2:51 she told me she was seconds from getting into the Olympics she ran a 18 minute 5k at age 53.  A reminder to not let age ever get in your way!   Luckily she was going for an “easy” run which still left me gasping, Thank goodness we hit a few red lights and I managed to keep up for the 4 miles we ran together.

Later, Tom and I went to the Science Museum of Minnesota which coincidently had a butterfly exhibit happening.  Everyone who knows about my friend Katie knows that if you see a butterfly it is Katie letting you know that she is with you from above.  We went to the butterfly room where immediately 3 butterflies landed on my head and didn’t leave until we left. It was definitely Katie saying that she was with me for this race.

A visit from Katie and her friends.

A visit from Katie and her friends.

For dinner we went to the marathon pasta dinner then off to bed early.

Marathon morning near Vikings stadium being rebuilt

Marathon morning near Vikings stadium being rebuilt

Amanda and I waiting to go to our start corrals.

Amanda and I waiting to go to our start corrals.

Sunday was marathon day.  It had been two years since I had run a stand-alone marathon.  Waking up to do a marathon is so much easier than a triathlon or even a long bike race.  I woke up at 5am and ate my usual pre-race meal of bagel, jason’s chocolate hazelnut butter and banana and gave myself my full bolus.  My BG was 202, as my pump delivered the insulin I chickened out and stopped the insulin with 1 unit to go.   The temperatures were fairly cold to start but I had plenty of “disposable” clothes with me so I was plenty warm getting to the race start.  I tested prior to dropping off my bag at 236 so I was happy.  I set my basil at 60% for 4 hours.

I had not followed any typical training program.  I did a lot of bike racing and training all summer so hadn’t been running, aside from once per week as marathon coaching started up in June.  I had run one 15 miler prior to the end of August.  At the end of August I traveled to the west coast for races.  I ran the hood to coast relay race in Portland which included 3 legs at 4-7 miles each.  The following weekend I raced in Rebecca’s private Idaho a 100 mile gravel bike race (RPI Post) .  My real marathon training started when I got back after labor day weekend. I had 3 weeks to train.

I ran 3-4 times a week for the 3 weeks.  I tried to run the mid-week runs at a decent tempo place and I ran 2 20 milers.  Something I definitely would recommend for any beginner but knowing my body and knowing my pace I felt confident enough to not overdo it.   I hoped that my biking fitness would transfer over to the marathon.  I looked up my last marathon time and splits. It was 2012 Chicago where I ran 2:00 in the first half and 1:50 ish in the second half.  I knew I had run negative splits that day but that is crazy.  I decided for this marathon I would aim for 2 hours at the half again then see where that would take me.  At my ripe old age I only need 3:55 to have a Boston qualifying time.  Not that I want to run Boston soon but I’d still like to keep my Boston Qualifying time alive.

For the cool weather I wore a thin base long sleeved layer with shorts and my Medtronic singlet. I also made sure that I had the purple butterfly cancer pin that Chris Navin had given me to my jersey as a reminder of Katie.

Butterfly Pin

Butterfly Pin

As I was running my shorts kept falling down.  I couldn’t figure out why but I was quite annoyed by it.  I had worn the shorts before I didn’t know what had changed.  Then I realized that it was because I had my base layer tucked into my shorts.  The waistband was not gripping onto my skin but rather was sliding down my torso with the jersey.    Once that was fixed I was happy.  The chocolate cherry gel I had stored in my shorts fell out and all I had left was my sleeve of blocks but that was plenty. The gel was really just for the caffeine if I needed it later in the race.

Cool temperatures and being well rested seemed to be a good mix, I felt great.  The miles were flying by.  It was a bit hillier than I was used to but it was extremely pretty and the streets were lined with people the entire way.  I watched my pace and stuck to my plan.  I let fellow diabetics and global hero’s Saci and Amanda go as they were going at a faster pace than I had planned so ended up on my own.  As I got to mile 10 I thought to myself only 7 miles before I get to see TeamWild founder Mari Ruddy.   I got to mile 13 exactly on pace at 2 hours.  I still felt great.  There were even a few mile markers that I just missed completely! The sights and the people were just so amazing.  The marathon course led runners through beautiful neighborhoods with lovely lakes and throughout the neighborhood people got together and looked like they were having a blast.   I finally saw Mari in the distance with her teamwild jacket.  I yelled Mari, Mari!  She finally saw me and I slowed down to give her a hug.  It’s always nice to anticipate people on the race course.   At mile 19 I heard my name being called as a global hero over the loud speaker I raised my arms and cheered and so did everyone else… it was awesome and gave me a nice boost!  I was supposed to meet up with Adam at mile 19 he had offered to run with me and I honestly felt I could use a bit of a push but we never saw each other.  After that bit of excitement I knew that the toughest part of any marathon was coming up.  Mile 20!  I also knew that there was a 2 mile uphill between miles 21-23 ish.  It wasn’t over yet.  I continued on. People every once in a while yelled go global hero! It felt great.  I was pushing it but kept up the pace with all my might in the last few miles, honestly I felt like I would never get to that last downhill mile. As we were coming down the final stretch I saw the parliament building in the distance and thought to myself it is so far I’m not going to make it at this pace!  Then I realized that the finish line wasn’t quite at the building so I was able to pick it up.  As I came down the finishers chute I veered to the left where I knew the Medtronic VIP section was.  I heard all my fellow global heroes as well as Tom cheering and tears came to my eyes.  I had finished in just under 3:55 and had qualified for Boston for a 5th time.  Yay! My splits can be seen here:  http://www.strava.com/activities/204377503

I slowly made my way through the finish line area.  I definitely felt every last mile in my body as it started to shut down as the adrenaline wore off.

I arrived at the Medtronic tent and was greeted immediately by Ranita the Global Hero Program coordinator she had been and is amazing and made you feel like you were special the entire weekend.  She gave me a huge hug which was exactly what I needed.  The tent was heated and had plenty of snacks and hot soup which hit the spot.  Another peasant surprise was seeing Team 2 End Aids endurance program director Jonathan who oversaw the marathon program that I had been coaching back in Chicago.  He was there with his wife and family.  It was so nice to see a familiar face and to meet his family.  Of course Tom my forever supporter as always was there to get me what I needed.

The Medtronic team had written out messages from friends and family on cards and had hung them in the tent.  I loved reading them.

IMG_0414 IMG_0397 IMG_0399 IMG_0400

Messages from friends and loved ones.

Messages from friends and loved ones.


I quickly tested my blood sugar for the first time since before the marathon I was 125 ! yay The 60% basil worked and I had eaten my sleeve of blocks evenly throughout the marathon and had drank water/Gatorade at the aid stations.  I also may have eaten a donut hole or two J, a couple of orange wedges and a ¼ banana. My Dexcom had crapped out on me and I didn’t have my tester so I went totally by feel.  Something I would only recommend if you have marathon experience!

After waiting for some of the others to finish we hopped on a bus and headed back to the hotel.  I had a nice hot shower a little drink then headed over to a brew pub for post race food and beverages.

"The Diabetics"

“The Diabetics”

We all chatted and took pictures and were sad that our weekend was over.  My life has definitely been enriched from this weekend as I now have 24 new bionic sisters and brothers.  We continue to this day to share stories of exercise and life on our facebook group page.  I have NO doubt that I will see many of them again.  I know for one I will see Saci since the two of us are both doing Ironman Wisconsin in 2015 with the “Riding on Insulin” group.  We have 100 people so far signed up many of whom are diabetic.  I am also raising money for the Riding on Insulin charity which is a great organization which provides athletic outlet for kids and adults with diabetes.  Riding on Insulin Fundraising Page  Sorry for the plug here but please consider a small donation!

The next day we said our final good byes and headed to the airport.  Tom had surprised me with a first class up grade!  Woo hoo, my weekend of VIP treatment lasted that much longer!

Until we meet again my fellow global heroes (and I know we will) love all of you and i’m glad I get to be a part of your lives forever.


About Gillian

I am a type 1 diabetic diagnosed at the age of 30. I run marathons, participate in bike races , ironman triathlons and everything in between.
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1 Response to A DIAGNOSIS DIDN’T END THE RUN – Medtronic Global Hero Marathon Weekend

  1. Pingback: Gillian’s Medtronic Global Hero experience | YOUglycemia.org

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